5 Ways Prevent Birth Defects Folic Acid during Pregnancy

Share this

The CDC estimates around 1 in every 33 infants are born in the United States with birth defects. The mother can take steps to reduce risk of birth defects for her developing baby.

Some birth defects can be prevented, through managing your health conditions and having healthy behaviors you increase chances for a healthy baby. Because when you take care of yourself your baby also benefits.

January is National Birth Defect Prevention Month.

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis. More details.

What are Birth Defects?

Birth defects are common, expensive and severe conditions. They are structural changes that took place during the baby’s development. These can affect any part or parts of the body such as; heart, brain or foot. The body may look or work differently or even both. The birth defect can vary from mild to severe.

The well-being of a child depends on the organ or body part involved having the birth defect. Depending on the birth defect severity and what body part affected, the expected lifespan of this individual may or may not be affected. (Support).

Most common birth defects:

  • Cleft lip/palate
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart defects
  • Spina bifida

Diagnosing Birth Defects

A birth defect may be discovered before birth, at birth but usually within the first year of life. Some like a cleft lip/palate are visible while others like a heart defect or hearing loss need to be diagnosed through special testing with an echocardiogram, x-rays or hearing test.

Birth Defect Causes

At any stage during the pregnancy birth defects can occur. Most take place during the first three months during pregnancy while the baby’s organs are forming. This is a very important stage in development. Some birth defects however, occur later. At the last six months of the pregnancy, baby’s tissue and organs are still growing and developing.

We are aware of the cause of some birth defects, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. Although, most birth defects the cause is unknown. There are theories they are the result of a complex mix of factors. This may include genes, behaviors and things in the environment.

Some things may increase the risk for the baby having birth defects:

  • Having medical conditions like being obese or uncontrolled diabetes before and during pregnancy
  • Using specific medications like isotretinoin (treatment for severe acne)
  • Having a family member with a birth defect. You can discuss this possibility with a clinical geneticist or a genetic counselor.
  • Usually a mother who is over age 34

If you have one or more of these risks, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a pregnancy affected by birth defect. Even women who have no risk have had a baby born with a birth defect. Talking to your doctor is an important step to find out how to lower your risk.

young female on laptop photo by Cliff booth from Pexels

5 Ways to Prevent Birth Defects

Try to be at healthy weight. Your weight affects your pregnancy; by increasing the risk of serious birth defects and other complications. Talk to your doctor before becoming pregnant if you are underweight, overweight or have obesity. Together you can plan a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

Take folic acid daily. Folic acid is essential to prevent major birth defects connected with baby’s brain and spine. If you plan on becoming pregnant or you could be pregnant, you should be including 400 mcg of folic acid in your diet every day. This ensures baby’s healthy development and growth.

Other than your diet folic acid may be taken from:

  • A supplement having folic acid. In the United States the sales of most vitamins have the recommended daily requirement of folic acid (400mcg) needed.

Supplements can be purchased online, at pharmacy, grocery or convenient stores. Make sure the label on the bottle says folic acid 100% daily value (400mcg).

  • Consume fortified rich foods: Find nutrient labels that state folate 100%.

The highest levels are in spinach, asparagus and Brussels sprouts.

Other folate foods:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Cabbage
  3. Kale
  4. Spring greens
  5. Chick peas
  6. Kidney beans
  7. Fruit
  8. Nuts
  9. Beans
  10. Peas
  11. Seafood
  12. Eggs
  13. Dairy products
  14. Poultry
  15. Grains
  16. Liver (but avoid while pregnant)
  • Combine the supplement containing folic acid and a diet of fortified rich foods.

Symptoms of folate deficiency anemia may be:

  1. Weakness
  2. Lightheaded
  3. Fatigue
  4. Difficulty concentrating
  5. Irritability
  6. Headaches
  7. Sore tongue
  8. Sores in mouth or on tongue

Consult your doctor about medications. Make sure your doctor is updated on your medications if you plan to become pregnant. To stay healthy during your pregnancy you may be given prescriptions that are important to take.

If you have a health condition your treatment should be in place before you become pregnant. This will help to keep you, as well as your developing baby healthy.

Make sure you have your vaccinations. Be up to date with your shots this helps in protecting you and your developing baby from serious diseases.

This includes your annual flu shot and a whooping cough vaccine (aka Tdap) for each pregnancy.

  • Flu: the flu shot can be done before or during each pregnancy.
  • Whooping cough: The whooping cough shot can be done during the last three months of each pregnancy.

Boost your health by avoiding these harmful substances while you are pregnant for you and your baby.

  • Alcohol – there is really no safe amount of alcohol known that may be consumed while pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Alcohol for a developing baby can cause fetal alcohol syndrome during the pregnancy. To completely stop drinking alcohol is important while you are trying to become pregnant and through your pregnancy.
  • Tobacco – Smoking is known to cause cancer, heart disease and other serious health problems. Smoking while you are pregnant can also harm your developing baby and has been linked to specific birth defects. To quit smoking will improve your health and give your baby a healthier environment.
  • Other drugs – While you are pregnant using certain drugs can cause complications for you and your developing baby. It is best to consult with your doctor about all medications you use; prescription as well as supplements. Your provider can assist if you need help with counseling, treatment and other support services.

The opioid addiction epidemic brought a high increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) this presented in babies as premature birth and drug withdrawal.

COVID-19 and Pregnancy

Being pregnant during the COVID-19 (please refer to the CDC & WHO websites for current updates) pandemic can be not only difficult but puts you at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and death. This is in comparison to those not pregnant.

If you have COVID-19 and are pregnant you might be at increased risk for other adverse outcomes like having the baby early (preterm delivery before 37 weeks).

To Reduce Risk for COVID-19 during Pregnancy

It is especially important for you as well as those you live with to take precautions against getting COVID-19. The need is to be as safe as possible. It is difficult to have zero risk of infection.

Take into consideration being around more people, how close you interact with them, and the time spent together, the higher your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Think about this level of risk when deciding to go out and be around people who don’t live with you.

Protect yourself if you do go out and ensure the people who live with you are taking the same steps.

young female working with laptop on table photo by Cliff Booth from Pexels

Follow the guidelines. Since people can be asymptomatic, limit your interactions with those who might have been exposed or who might be infected with COVID-19. This includes people you live with as much as possible.

Wear your mask. Especially, during situations where it is difficult to practice social distancing from others. Avoid those who aren’t wearing a mask or ask them to wear a mask (for your protection as well as your baby’s).

Social distancing. Keep at least 6 feet away especially from people not living with you.

Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is to be used.

I know you’ve heard this all before, so many times already, just a reminder (take care).

Are you at risk of having a baby with birth defects? How are you preventing risk?

Please share and subscribe to email, thank you!

Header Photo pregnant female standing outdoors by Negative Space from Pexels

Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fourteen years.
Share this

Leave a Comment

Verified by MonsterInsights